In thirty-four years of living in America, I have never faced the problem of radical racial resistance from committed individualists, many of whom fall within the conservative camp. They have mostly accepted me as an individual and treated me as an equal. My race to them was neither a qualifier nor a disqualifier, but a sociological marker which, as far as I could tell, was irrelevant to how I performed. In my experience with far-left progressives there exists an insidious racism that is often hard to diagnose. Their sense of their own whiteness required black helplessness and inadequacy to shore up a sense of guilt, which would then prompt action on their part, from which they could seek redemption and contrition.
There is unbridled hubris behind such psychic exploitation, because one needs to posit an inferior before one can masochistically experience redemption from some perceived wrong one has inflicted against another. That wrong, which the so-called progressive feels she or he has wielded, is white privilege.
Earth hath no greater self-righteous and moralistic avenging angel than the progressive afflicted with a sense of wrongful white privilege. So, what did I do in the face of the holder of this white privilege? I committed the worst crime possible: I communicated that it was a farce. I laughed at it, made it clear I was unharmed by it, rendered the holders irrelevant, and incurred their repressed but seething wrath. Hell also hath no greater fury like a far-left-progressive rejected for his or her redemptive gestures. Why? Because if the moral meaning and purpose of your existence as a far-left liberal rests on my suffering and victimization as a black person, then you will need me to suffer indefinitely in order to continue to cull some meaning and purpose from your life.
If I reject your help on the grounds that I will not let you expropriate my agency on behalf of my life, that I will cultivate the virtues in my character that are needed to emancipate my life from the hell you imagine it to be, then I’ve annihilated your meaning here on earth. I’ve identified your moral sadism in the relief of my suffering and named the moral hypocrisy of your life. It was never about me all along. It was about your redemption.
These alt-left individuals suffer from annihilation anxiety because black freedom signals the death of the very sociopolitical relevance of the far left, and not just in black lives, but in all forms of social engineering. Liberals who have staked their identity on black oppression, victimization, and suffering are moral sadists because in order to continue justifying their existence, they must continue to wish to see black people suffer under racial oppression. They expropriate the agency of racial minorities so they can speak for them, to them, and, in essence, determine who among them is qualified to count as their racial spokesperson.
The sense of superiority is unmistakable. People who regard other people as their moral equals either leave them alone to make their own way, or, when they are aggrieved, address the injustice quietly and move on after it is resolved.
A far-left liberal friend of mine recently told me that she was disturbed by my views on race.
“Yes, we all need to take responsibility for who we are. But, let’s face it, this message rings more hollow in some cases than in others,” she declared. “Your main message that blacks need to take more responsibility for their own lives saddens me; it seems to put the emphasis in the wrong place. Is your message to women, too, that they just need to stop whining and start succeeding?”
Since I had not been aware of women besides those who were very privileged, elitist, and those entitled who were whiners, I never bothered to respond. For the most part, ordinary working women in America, possessed of a deep, independent, and pioneering spirit, are not and have never been whiners, for they know that America remains the best place in the world to be a woman.
There is something nefarious simmering behind the motivation of the so-called progressive sector among the left-wingers for black emancipation. In my early years as an immigrant in the United States, and working up to three jobs to put myself through college, there was definitely an unmistakable and discernible attitude being directed at me.
Who was I not to be harmed or victimized by white privilege? How dare I not be a victim? How dare I deny them that power of identifying me as a victim and then emancipating me? What possessed me to have so large an efficacious agency that I could usurp and circumvent the power of this disguised form of white supremacy exercised by progressives?
Here is what I admire about individualists who identify, often, as conservatives. They know that one dare not possess the temerity and impertinence for finding them guilty simply for being white, and they know that any privilege they possess, whether it is brilliance, beauty, or physical prowess, is simply wasted if not exercised. If whiteness is a privilege, as is maleness, then what do people expect white people or men to do about them? Act black? Feminize themselves?
There is an antidote (especially for those who are black) if you are traumatized by what you experience as “white privilege.” Though I hate to cast any virtue in racial monikers, I would, nevertheless, say its name is: Black Excellence! Excellence in one’s character and excellence in the cultivation of one’s intellect are the best remedies for the fear of being overwhelmed by whatever magical powers one imagines that whiteness today can exercise over the lives of free people in a free society. Moral and skill perfection as goals to strive for provide one with an aspirational identity that is always in a process of perpetual development in concert with one’s fellow compatriot.
The so-called social privilege leveraged by another person cannot inflict harm on a person who believes in the inviolate certainty of his or her moral and skill efficacy. Those who chronically complain of the unfairness of white privilege not only lack basic self-esteem, they also suffer from an appalling inability to either take an inventory of their own privileges that they are failing to cultivate or, worse, they regard the cultivation of the virtues that would indeed make them privileged as politically inexpedient since it would rob them of their victim status. But, a deep commitment to a life of lived excellence is not an inoculation against anyone’s privileged existence. Dignified lives are not in competition with one another. They each have their own unassailable integrity and indubitable individuality.
I have never complained about white privilege. I have never taken it seriously as having any real causal pull in my life, nor do I trust those white people who prate endlessly about white privilege to black folks or guilt trip among themselves about its so-called deleterious effects on black lives. I have never feared it is because I have never thought white people had any volitional power to control the manner in which I shaped my moral character, nor have they influenced my intellectual skill set in any shape or form. I simply perceive reality clearly and correctly: whatever is codified socially as white privilege is and has always been weakened by the force of my personal will, my values, the unquestionable set of excellences I have developed in several areas of my life, and the habituated virtues of my soul. These have always added up—even when I was a poor and struggling student—to a very privileged existence and rarefied life.
If black victimologists hate America by virtue of their suffering and historical exclusions from mainstream society, then left-wingers can gain street credibility by enlisting their black brothers- and sisters-in-hatred in solidarity. What the bourgeois alt-left lack in personal oppression, they make up for in their righteous indignation over the plight of black victimization. And, since black victims often lack the institutional resources to showcase their suffering and perceived hopelessness to a large audience, what better way for left-wingers to make themselves useful than by atoning for their social insignificance and irrelevance by creating a performance on behalf of the victims?
In the end, I have only my indisputable agency to stand on. It has a universal shape to it. It can navigate a multiplicity of registers and, above all it is not an existential problem. Rather, it is the very inoculation and bulwark against those who would view me as a problem to be solved.
Jason D. Hill is professor of philosophy and Honors Distinguished Faculty at DePaul University in Chicago. His areas of specialization include ethics, social and political philosophy, American foreign policy and American politics. He is the author of four books, including “We Have Overcome: An Immigrant’s Letter to the American People” (Bombardier Books/Post Hill Press). Follow him on Twitter @JasonDhill6